Arctic Blast 2022: How to unfreeze a frozen pipe, how to check if your pipes are frozen, and how to stop your pipes from freezing

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As Glasgow experiences sudden freeze and thaws over the winter period - it’s important to know how to spot the signs of a frozen pipe and what to do if your pipes get frozen

As the winter chill sets in across Glasgow, many Glaswegians have begun to experience frozen pipes in their place of residence - here’s how to get them thawed quickly.

A number of outages were experienced across Glasgow this - Cumnock residents were left without running water on Tuesday after a valve froze in the area. The same issue affected people living in Kinkintilloch. Repiar work had to be carried out overnight to fix the issue, which has since been resolved in both areas.

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Scottish Water also confirmed on Wednesday morning that it was investigating a loss of supply in the G40, East Glasgow and Rutherglen, and G31, Dennistoun and Parkhead. The water service corporation said:“We are currently on the way to investigate the issue and are aiming to be on site as soon as possible.

“While we investigate, please be aware that you may experience no water supply or low/intermittent water pressure. You may also experience discoloured water.”

How do I tell if my pipes are frozen?

A loss of water supply often indicates frozen pipes in a residential property. This can present as a weak, slow flow in ultilities like a faucet, shower, or toilet.

If the pipes are visible (often under the sink) frost or ‘bulging’ of a pipe is a good indicator of a frozen pipe.

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How do I thaw frozen pipes?

For most people - the best course of action would be to contact a plumber, but with the cost of living crisis hitting hard around Christmas - that isn’t an option for many Glaswegians. If in doubt, or if you notice a significant bulging or leakage in your pipes, contact a plumber as soon as possible to avoid flooding.

  1. Turn off the stop-tap: In case of frozen pipes, Scottish Water recommends turning off the stop valve (often found near utilities like sinks, bathrooms, cellars, cupboards, or even under the stairs). To turn off the stop-tap turn it clockwise.
  2. Keep faucets ‘open’: Keep the cold taps open - the stop-tap should remain off - but keep the cold water tap ‘running’ as if the water is still on, this gives the water somewhere to go. As the pipes begin to thaw water and steam is released and an outlet is required or it may burst the pipe.
  3. Apply heat to the frozen section: Using a towel soaked in hot water, heating pads, or hair dryers can help thaw the pipe as long as someone is watching them at all times. If you see any water leaking, stop using any electric heating methods to avoid getting electrocuted. DO NOT use any open flames like blowtorches, propane, kerosene heaters, stoves or any other open flame device - space heaters should be avoided unless the area is completely free of fire hazards.
  4. Expose pipes: To let heat from the home flow around the pipes, expose the pipes by leaving cabinet or cupboard doors open.
  5. Take your time: Keep applying heat until the water flow returns to normal. To test whether a pipe is frozen or not, turn on all the faucets and the water is flowing normally (and not leaking from any cracked pipes). You’ll also be able to tell when a pipe has thawed when a sudden gush of water emits from the tap - so be prepared for that.

If the pipes aren’t thawing, it’s time to phone a plumber. If the water is flowing again normally - check immediately for any leaking joints or bursts, if you find any, it’s time to phone a plumber. If you detect that a pipe has burst during your test, shut off the main water supply immediately. Remove as much water as possible using mops, sponges, towels, and a wet vacuum (if you have one) to minimize water-related problems like damp.

How do I stop my pipes from freezing?

You should prepare your heating system for winter each year before the cold begins to set in.

  1. Service your boiler: You should check if your boiler has been serviced in the last year (experts reccomend servicing your boiler at least once a year),
  2. Check and label your stop-tap: In any plumbing related emergency - the stop-tap should be your first port of call. Find it, label it, and remember it for later - hopefully you’ll never need to use it. The most common places to find your stop-tap are under the kitchen sink, in a kitchen cupboard, in a downstairs bathroom or toilet, garage, utility room, cellar or under the stairs.
  3. Seal up cracks: Seal up any holes in the wall located near pipes to keep the cold air out. You can insulate pipes with foam, rubber, or fibreglass sleeves to help decrease the chance of them freezing - this is critical if your pipes run through a basement or loft. You should also seal up any draughts from exterior doors or windows in your home to lessen the amount of cold air coming into your home.
  4. Drain water: You should drain water and disconnect any hoses from lines that are likely to freeze - the most common culprit being outdoor taps - but if you’re lucky enough to have a swimming pool or a sprinkler system, these should be drained too.

A survey carried out by WaterSafe - a British register of plumbing contrators - found that 37 per cent of Brits didn’t service their boiler once a year, 46 per cent didn’t know where their stop-tap was, and 31 per cent didn’t drain or disconnect the hose attached to outdoor taps.

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Julie Spinks, Director of WaterSafe, said: “WaterSafe is a partner of the Met Office’s ‘WeatherReady’ campaign, which encourages everyone to think about what they can do to prepare for, and cope with, severe weather. My number one recommendation is find your stop tap, check it’s working and label it. This will help you to quickly shut off the water supply in an emergency, such as a leak or burst pipe. Note that it should be turned clockwise to turn off.

“Pipes can freeze and burst in very cold temperatures, particularly if we have a sudden freeze and thaw. It’s also common for water to freeze in hosepipes attached to outdoor taps, leading to ice backing up into pipes and cracking them.

“I’d also advise everyone to have the number of a WaterSafe-approved plumber handy for emergencies. Our survey showed only just over a quarter of people do this,” Julie added.

“Winter can lead to costly issues for some people, so I’d recommend being as prepared as you can be – most people aren’t! Nearly three-quarters of respondents told us they don’t fix dripping taps, turn off the water if they’re going away or leave the heating on low to help prevent bursts. There’s lots of winter advice on our website at”

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